Eileen Collins was kidded about how good she looked when Discovery. Some observers even said she looked like she'd been to a spa.
"Well," Collins said to The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith Friday, "I always tell people that going in space is great. It's great for your hair, for your skin. You get a fluid shift, so you get a little more color in your face.
"But I actually wasn't feeling all that great, getting off the shuttle. I was still trying to get my Earth-legs back. I had lost my balance. And I was walking very close to other people so I could grab them if I needed to. Two weeks in space, it takes a little bit of time to recover."
Collins and five of the other six crew members spoke with Smith from the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Only Soichi Noguchi didn't appear.
The seven astronauts got a hero's welcome when they returned to Houston Wednesday. But NASA has grounded the shuttle program until it figures out why foam insulation keeps falling off the shuttle's external fuel tank.
Collins says it was a mission accomplished, despite the renewed concerns: "The return-to-flight objectives set by the space shuttle program were that we get the shuttle flying again and we take a look at some of the things that we had fixed in the upgrades that we had done to the shuttle. And that we re-supply the international space station."
Collins added, "It's been four years since a lot of this crew has been assigned to this mission. We've work so hard, put so much energy into it. Once we finally launched and got up there, it was just a fantastic feeling to be able to work the mission. There were so many challenges, the robotics operations, the spacewalks, the transfer operations to the space station. We were accomplishing those objectives. That's what we're all about. It was really just an exhilarating feeling to get those objectives done."
Steve Robinson described a wondrous view, literally out of this world, that he had when he took the spacewalk to make some repairs to the outside of the shuttle.
"I felt very privileged to be the person that got to do that, believe me," Robinson observed. "Every person who has ever trained to do a space walk would have liked to have done that. It was like standing way on the tip of a mountain and seeing a very beautiful sight. …It was pretty amazing. When you're under the belly of the orbiter, it was kind of like this general curve. It looks almost like a landscape. Then the sun came up over that landscape. And I had the Earth off to my right at a different angle. I could look down past my left foot and see the whole space station laid out there. It was really beyond words."
On the foam woes, James Kelly admitted, "Obviously, disappointment was first thing that went through my mind. The good thing was that they immediately told us on board that the piece of foam had come off but had not struck the orbiter. Obviously, that made us feel confident for ourselves. Then we proved that over the next several days with inspections, which is one of the true success stories of the flight: that we could inspect ourselves and know that we were in good condition to come back."
Andy Thomas said the picture the astronauts kept on display of the ill-fated shuttle Columbia was a constant tribute to all who'd given their lives in the course of human exploration of space. And, "It was impossible not to think about them prior to entry. We knew the dangers involved …although I think many of us got so involved with the whole entry event that we put that out of our minds and didn't realize what we had passed through until we had finished the entry."
Wendy Lawrence says it still may be possible to get another shuttle off the ground this year: "It may be a simple fix, it may not be. I know that everybody will work extremely hard."